Sunday, October 27, 2019

October's Book Reviews and Previews

For your consideration:
  • A mystery set in World War II (When Hell Struck Twelve);
  • A medical thriller (The Dreaming Tree); and 
  • A murder thriller (The Dark Web Murders).
Hope you find something for your library,


When Hell Struck Twelve (A Billy Boyle WWII Mystery Book 14) by James R. Benn

A Well-Crafted Wartime Backdrop for a Somewhat Clumsy Mystery

Author James Benn’s depiction of the events leading up to and during the Liberation of Paris—the backdrop for When Hell Struck Twelve—is outstanding. The Germans are retreating from Normandy after their defeat at the Battle for Hill 262. On the Battle’s 20th anniversary, President Eisenhower said that "… no other battlefield presented such a horrible sight of death, hell, and total destruction." Benn’s description in the opening chapters of the book does that statement justice. As the Germans retreat toward Paris after the defeat, a power vacuum is created, letting factions within the French resistance settle old scores. It’s not enough that the French are killing Germans and vice versa; the French are also killing each other. Our main characters, US Army detective Billy Boyle and Lieutenant Kazimierz (Kaz) find themselves entangled in this purgatory, witnessing the horrors of war from tank and gun battles on the streets of Paris to clandestine torture and murder in backrooms and deserted buildings. The psychological costs are also felt as our heroes develop mysterious headaches and uncontrollable muscle tremors. It’s a dark, brutal, unrelenting world compellingly drawn by Benn. For the complete review, see:

The Dreaming Tree by Matthew Mather

A Mind-Bending, Emotion-Stirring, Series-Launching Medical Thriller

“This is definitely one for the weird books.”

So said the partner of the book’s protagonist, Detective Delta Devlin, after they had solved the case. And I’d have to agree. From full-body transplants, to hunting trips for celebrities’ excrement, to “oil changes” for the wealthy—I’ll let you read the book, if you don’t follow those references—The Dreaming Tree is a wild ride between recent advances and imminent breakthroughs in medical science with a bit a pure fiction thrown into the mix. And author Matthew Mather makes it really tough to know just which of those you are reading at any given point in the story. Of course, in dealing at the bleeding edge of medical science, societal and ethical questions appear at every turn in the plot, not as academic questions, but as part of a baffling, sometimes surreal mystery. When is someone dead? If we can grow parts, why not an entire body? And similarly, your emotions will sustain some collateral damage from treading this ground. References to body-part harvesting among the helpless and the brutally poor are particularly gut wrenching. For the complete review, see:

The Dark Web Murders by Brian O’Hare

An Engrossing Murder Thriller with a Gut-Wrenching Finale

The Dark Web Murders is an engrossing—and by its end, harrowing—serial-killer, murder thriller. Initially, it’s a ‘crowd whodunit,’ deriving mystery from the excess of viable, and in this case, powerful suspects. “So, we have a dead judge who has just been partying with another judge, a law professor, a couple of property millionaires, a prominent surgeon, a well-known barrister, a socialite and a playboy, a gambling machines tycoon, a media mogul, a top civil servant, and a restaurateur.” This part of the story has the feel of a well-developed police procedural, bolstered by the considerable deductive skills of our protagonist, Chief Inspector Jim Sheehan. “Sheehan didn’t miss the deliberate nature of the judge’s composure.” That’s a lot of fine reading of body language. For the complete review, see:

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